Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Contemporary Culture of Lying

The Royal "Baby" and his parents.

(Eighteenth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on August 4, 2013 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 21-23; Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Luke 12: 13-21.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Eighteenth Sunday 2013]


“When Is a Royal Baby a Fetus?”

That was the title of an article that I came across the other day on the website of the people who produce The Atlantic magazine.

It was written by Owen Strachan not long after the most important news event of the year (at least it was the most important news event to many in the mainstream media).  I’m talking, of course, about the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, the son of “Bill and Kate” (a.k.a. Prince William and Kate Middleton).

Now the reason I mention this today is because in his piece Strachan focused on a very strange phenomenon surrounding the little Prince’s birth, namely, how the secular press referred to the royal infant before he was born.  Normally the pro-choice members of the news media (who are clearly in the majority) refer to an unborn child as a “fetus,” not a baby—and they adamantly refuse to do otherwise.  As Strachan noted,


Countless media reports [in recent weeks] bore news about the “royal baby.”
Why was this noteworthy?  Because this term, to get exegetical for a moment, was not used to describe the future state of the child--once born and outside of the womb, that is.  No, the American media used this phrase “royal baby” to describe the pre-born infant.  It’s not strange for leading pro-life thinkers like Eric Metaxas and Denny Burk to refer to a fetus as a “baby.”   It's not strange, either, for people to refer to a child they're expecting as a "baby," regardless of where they stand on the issue of abortion.  It is strange, though, for outlets like the
New York Times and the Washington Post and Boston Globe--which purport to be neutral on the issue--to use this seemingly explosive phrase without so much as a qualification.  And why is this strange?  Because it codes a pro-life position into their description of the unborn child.


Of course, those news organizations are anything but pro-life, which was precisely Strachan’s point!  As he said a little later in the article:


In both the mainstream media and the pro-abortion movement, fetuses are future humans being knit together in a woman’s body.  They are not humans while in the womb.  To kill them is not to kill a human, but something not-yet human.
How strange was it, then, that leading news sources referred to the fetus of William and Kate as the “royal baby.” There were no pre-birth headlines from serious journalistic sources like “Royal Clump of Cells Eagerly Anticipated” or “Imperial Seed Soon to Sprout.”  None of the web’s traffic-hoarding empires ran “Subhuman Royal Fetus Soon to Become Human!”  No, over and over again, one after another, from the top of the media food chain to the bottom, Kate’s “fetus” was called, simply and pre-committedly, a baby.  Why was this?  Because, as I see it, the royal baby
was a baby before birth.  The media was right; gloriously, happily right.


Yes, that’s correct; the media, in this instance, did tell the truth.  But do you know what that means, my brothers and sisters?  THAT MEANS THAT 99.999% OF THE TIME THEY LIE TO US!!!

Which would lead St. Paul to say—in the words of today’s second reading from Colossians 3—“Stop lying to one another!”

And how about the other abortion-related lie that’s been in the news lately concerning the new Texas law—a law which is designed, primarily, to protect the health of women?  Don’t pro-choicers tell us all the time that what they’re most concerned about is protecting a woman’s health?  Well apparently they lie about that concern, because aside from banning abortions after 20 weeks, the chief purpose of this new Texas law is to require higher safety standards in abortion clinics. 

You would think that pro-choicers would be ecstatic about that—but they’re not.  They’re much more concerned about having abortion available, even if it’s in a filthy, unsanitary clinic like the one Kermit Gosnell, the convicted murderer, ran for decades in Philadelphia.

Young Michael Najim, long before he was Fr. Michael Najim, used to give talks to Confirmation classes in which he often said to his fellow high school students, “We are the most lied-to generation ever.”

That was back in the early 1990s.  Well that’s no longer true.  What’s now true is that THIS PRESENT generation is the most lied-to generation ever!

And it’s that way largely because of the media, and because of the expanded means of communication that we have in our modern world.  Let’s face it, in generations past if you wanted to get a lie into the minds of a lot of people, it was pretty difficult. You had to work really hard at it—especially before the advent of television and radio.  Now, however, you can literally tell a lie to millions of people all over the world in less than a second!  You can “tweet it” or “text it” or “blog it” or “Facebook it”—and it’s out there for almost everyone to see!

The technologically-driven lies that are with us right now are many and varied, but some of them we hear constantly:  fetuses are not truly human; human life does not begin at conception; science and religion are incompatible enemies; marriage is something other than a relationship between one man and one woman; marriage has little or nothing to do with having and raising children; sex is a recreational sport with few or no serious consequences. 

That last one, by the way, is pretty much the message of the movie that just came out, called “The To Do List.”  Have you heard about it?  As one film reviewer put it, the main character in the story “loses her virginity to a guy who really doesn’t know her and definitely doesn’t love her, and then she . . .  packs up her things and goes to college, un-traumatized and un-stricken by tragic regret.”

What a lovely family film.

Is it any wonder that some of our young people have such a difficult time telling the truth?  They hear so many lies every day, and then they hear about (and sometimes encounter) adults who are living various lies—athletes, for example, who are caught using steroids after claiming for years that they were “clean”; politicians who lie about where they stand on certain issues, and about their faithfulness to their spouses in their marriages; even members of the clergy who lie about their faithfulness to the moral teachings they claim to believe. 

So much of what our young people have to deal with every day encourages them to be untruthful.

I’m not making excuses for them; I’m simply saying that this is the reality of where we’re at in our culture right now.

Can it change?

Of course it can! 

But the spirit of lying will not be eliminated (or even diminished) unless each of us makes the effort to kill it in our life by being truthful!  Notice what St. Paul says in this text.  He says, “Put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.  Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”

None of this evil stuff goes away magically.  (That’s the key point that Paul is making here.)  By the grace that comes to us through faith and the sacraments, we have to actively and willfully KILL these evil realities in our lives, or they will continue to live within us!  We “kill” sin, of course, by choosing to be virtuous.  For example, we kill immorality by choosing to be moral; we kill impurity by choosing to be pure; and we kill lying by choosing to be truthful—even when we’re tempted not to be (and, let’s be honest about it, from time to time we all are tempted not to be!).

I’ll leave you today with the words of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.  In one of his talks at World Youth Day last week, he told the young people to “rebel”.  He said, “Rebel—against this culture!”

And that’s exactly what we have to do.  We have to rebel against this “culture of lying” that we’re presently living in.

May God help each of us to do that, today and everyday.